Novel Extracts Available!

I was recently made aware of a wonderful little website called WattPad.

I seem to remember joining up a couple of years ago, because someone told me it might be a good idea, but then never used it again. Typical case of good idea, wrong time.

Regular followers of this blog and my Facebook Page will know that I have putting together a novel for some time. It started as just a tiny seed of an idea, some years ago now, and has now grown beyond all expectations, as novels are wont to do.

Anyway, I am very pleased to announce that you can now go and read these extracts online. FOR FREE! Simply click on the link below and it’ll take you straight there!

WattPad gives you access to thousands of pieces of writing, across almost every genre (nothing erotic, sadly). There is a social networking element to it, somewhat like Goodreads, where you can recommend items to friends. But the best thing for us self-published lot is that you can put out your edited pieces of work for absolutely nothing here.

The aim is to gain readers while your work is still in the draft stages and enable them to let you know, by way of comments, whether or not you’re on the right track. Absolutely great idea, especially if you’re lacking a little confidence, like me.

So, without further ado, please follow this link, and if you can leave a comment, I’ll be forever grateful…

The Drowning Pool, Syd Moore

The Swanwick Writers’ Summer School of 2013 was a pivotal time in my writing journey. It was the first time I had visited the school, and it was a life-changing experience, both in terms of writing and in terms of the people I met there.

For part of that glorious week, I chased poor Syd Moore around the conference centre with a copy of this book. Eventually, I found an opportune moment for her to sign it for me, and I was thrilled. It was the first book I had ever owned which was signed by the author.

I have always had a fascination with witchcraft, ever since reading Arthur Miller’s The Crucible at school. There’s something about the fact that there is yet so much we don’t understand about the physical nature of the world in which we live. This makes our imagination fill in the gaps of knowledge with stories of fantasy and imagination.

The Drowning Pool gives us a rich story into this abyss of knowledge with a wonderful story about a young widow and her connection with a historical figure, both with the name of Sarah Grey. Sarah’s raw emotions shine through in every page, and her paranormal experience allows her to come to terms with her own loss. I loved the dream sequences and the historical flashbacks which are equally beautifully described and full of imagery.

I’m not usually a fan of ghost stories, but I was drawn to the witchcraft elements of this book and in actual fact, I wasn’t at all spooked out. Instead, the appearances of the ghost are well-handled and much more sentimental than I expected. Certainly, I shall be reading more of Syd’s work, and I do hope she makes it back to Swanwick soon!

Robert Harris: Fatherland

You know what I love about writing this blog? I now have a reason to read all those dusty tomes which have been sitting patiently on my bookshelves waiting to be read. This one in particular, has been waiting longer than most. I believe it has survived three house moves at least, maybe more.

This is, however, a thriller that has touched me like no other. My mother recommended it some years ago. I duly got hold of a copy and finally picked it up a couple of weeks ago.

Imagine, if you will, a world where the Nazis had won the Second World War. It’s now 1964 and The Greater German Reich (Germany, Austria, and large parts of Eastern Europe and Western Russia) is about to celebrate Adolf Hitler’s 75th birthday.

Xavier March is a detective in the police force and disillusioned with The Party. He can’t shake off the uncomfortable feelings about the way his country operates. He is assigned to investigate the mysterious circumstances surrounding a body found in a lake outside Berlin. However, his lack of loyalty has been noticed and his movements are being carefully watched by the Gestapo.

Enter Charlie, a feisty American journalist with ideas of her own about the truth about millions of Jews who were allegedly ‘resettled’ into Russia during the 1940s. A trip to Zurich takes them deeper into the most horrifying conspiracy Mankind has ever committed.

This is a book everyone should read. History tells us that The Allied Forces won by only a hair’s breadth in 1945. This story will remind us why we are so grateful for those who gave their lives in order for that to happen. Let us never forget what it could have been like otherwise.

Simon Hall: The TV Detective

I’m not usually a reader of crime fiction, I must admit. Not since my days of studying French, when I used to read Agatha Christie novels a-plenty in an attempt to improve my understanding of La Belle Langue. The language was easier to grasp in Christie than Gustave Flaubert, for a start.

However, since meeting Simon Hall at Swanwick this year I decided it was time to expand my repertoire of reading material. He was kind enough to sign my copy, after all. So, I wasn’t really sure what to expect when I picked up The TV Detective, but in fact I enjoyed this book immensely.

Our central character, Dan Groves, finds himself in the unenviable role of crime correspondent just as a notorious local businessman is found murdered. Loved by no one except his poor, long-suffering secretary, there is no shortage of suspects for his murder, but it takes Dan and his CID mentor, Adam Breen, some time to pin down the precise whys and wherefores.

The author’s own career as a TV reporter shines through very much through young Dan, and we can therefore assume all TV references are taken from real experiences. I particularly liked the portrayal of the formidable editor, Lizzy. I can hear her stilettos clattering down the corridor right now…!

Other reviewers have mentioned the references to A Popular Murder, upon which this novel is based. Personally I cannot comment, since I am not familiar with it.

This is a great debut novel and I am looking forward very much to catching up with the rest of the series. Thank you, Simon!

Elizabeth Gilbert: A Signature of All Things

Some months ago, I was lucky enough to get a ticket to Bloomsbury Publishing, London, for the London leg of Elizabeth Gilbert’s book tour to promote her wonderful new novel, A Signature of All Things.

Ar 201uthor Elizabeth Gilbert (l) and me at Bloomsbury Publishing in October 2013
Author Liz Gilbert (left) and me at Bloomsbury Publishing in October 2013

Over the Christmas break I finished reading the book and, I have to say, what a wonderful read it is.

Liz has created such a great character in Alma Whittaker. She is an incredibly intelligent woman who excels in her chosen field of botany. She is not, however, an attractive heroine who meets the love of her life and lives happily ever after. Instead, her story is one of immense personal strength, an unquenchable thirst for knowledge and, ultimately, heartbreak.

I am a huge fan of Liz’s work and it was a pleasure to meet her at the event. A friend pointed me in the direction of Eat, Pray Love a couple of years ago and I have never looked back. She writes with a rare eloquence which reads as though she herself is speaking from the page. It makes her stories sound deeply personal and all the more believable. I have since gone on to purchase more of her books and shall read them with great pleasure!

 

Merry Christmas Everyone!

So, here we are. I’ve arrived in West Cumbria, chez Mama and Papa, amid severe gales and showers of both sleet and hail. To make matters worse,  the distraught feline on the back seat made her displeasure all too obvious by howling for most of the journey.

So tempers were frayed to start with, before I learned that my father’s broadband connection has been reset and so the network and password data on the back of his router is useless. Cue a phone call to TALKTALK to get it all sorted.

Now, I am not the most patient person in the world as it is. So, I consider today to have been a triumph, since I have not lost my temper with anyone yet. However, it’s only just gone dark. There’s plenty of time before bed!

So, as I settle into a Christmas with my family, as I’m sure many of you will be doing, it’s time to reflect on a year of success for my fledgling writing career. And also to look forward to how it will likely leap forward in 2014.

By far, one of the most wonderful experiences was my first week at Swanwick which I shall treasure forever. Meeting so many talented writers and being immersed in a literary world was such an inspiration. Certainly, it gave me confidence and courage to write more than before and with a more determined purpose.

Visiting authors at book tours has also become an inspirational pastime which I look forward to doing much more of in 2014. Both Elizabeth Gilbert and Mark Forsyth have given me food for thought about my next steps into the world of authoring.

I have been writing my short stories which, as many of you know, will be published under my pseudonym sometime in January. One of my tasks over the holidays is to browse through thousands of book covers to choose just the right ones for my stories.

All very exciting stuff for someone who, less than twelve months ago, didn’t know whether this was just a passing phase that I would get bored of eventually. Although I do still get moments of self-doubt, as I believe most writers do from time to time, I believe I’ve made great progress this year.

So, if you’re a dedicated follower of this blog, first of all I’d like to say a huge “Thank you!” and also give you a taster of what’s to come in the next few months.

Short stories published for the kindle and available through Amazon only to start with. Watch this space or check my Facebook page () for details.

I’m off to Brittany in France for a writing retreat at Easter, another in Rome in June and then Swanwick again in August to top up on inspiration and meet up with my writing friends.

I also plan to be developing a website for my alter ego to help promote my kindle stories so look out for more on that. So, with that and continuing this blog, I shall be a very busy lady.

Finally, I have this novel which has been swimming around in my head for a while and really needs to get onto the page. So, there’ll be more work on that from to time.

So, all that remains is for me to wish you and all your loved ones a very Merry Christmas and a wonderful New Year 2014!

Triskaidekaphobia, friggatriskaidekaphobia and an Etymologist comes to Warwickshire!

As 2013 draws to a close and we look forward to a brand new year, we begin to think about resolutions we may or may not stick to and changes we will make to improve our lives. It may also be a time when we choose to overcome certain fears, which brings me onto this marvellous word: triskaidekaphobia.

It’s a word that comes from the Greek tris meaning “three”, kai meaning “and”, deka meaning “ten” and phobos meaning “fear” or “morbid fear”. So, it means “a fear of the number thirteen”. I’ve stayed in hotels myself where there is no room thirteen. They tend to be smaller, private hotels rather than the big chains, but nonetheless, it’s a very real fear for some.

There is also a related word: friggatriskaidekaphobia, which is the fear of, specifically, Friday the 13th.

For some, just hearing the phrase “Friday the 13th” brings them out in a cold sweat. Presumably, these are the same folks who make a habit of avoiding walking underneath ladders, throw salt over their shoulders and make themselves a recluse on that fateful day.

If that’s you, I have some advice. When you wake up on Friday, think of something positive and keep it in your mind all day. Maybe it’s a holiday you’ve planned for 2014. or maybe you’re going somewhere for Christmas, visiting family and friends. Get excited about it (if you’re not already) and hold that feeling of excitement. Before you know it, the day will have passed, for the most part, without incident. Then, it’s all over until the next one (my calendar reliably informs me this will be next June).

I am not especially superstitious myself. Life is unfair enough at times without adding the inevitable problems of an unseen force over which we can have no control. Still, I will no doubt buy a lottery ticket over Christmas, and cross my fingers at some point in the hopes that it makes a difference to whether or not I win. Touch wood, and all that…

 ~~~

Speaking of etymology, I went to a book signing this week.

Mark Forsyth (aka The Inky Fool) visited Warwick to promote his new book The Elements of Eloquence so I managed to bag myself a seat. I also managed to be first in the queue for him to sign all three of his books for me which was a real treat. He wished me well with my writing journey too.

I found him to be a most engaging speaker. He is just as eloquent and articulate as you would expect if you’ve read his books. He recited all sorts of long-forgotten yet wonderful words in the English language with a distinguished wit and charm.

Etymology is a fascinating topic for writers and in The EtymologiconMark writes about it most beautifully. It is wordsmithery in its finest form, creating powerful images for each word and a small lesson in history in every paragraph.

I’ve not yet read The Horologicon, though it promises to be just as entertaining as the previous book. It goes without saying that I expect The Elements of Eloquence to be no different. Stay tuned for reviews of all three books in the new year!

Kazuo Ishiguro: Never Let Me Go

This critically acclaimed novel, shortlisted for the Man Booker prize in 2005, is yet another tome which has sat on my bookshelf for some time waiting for me to pick it up. I’m so glad I did; it’s one of the best stories I’ve read in some time.

I was about two chapters in when I realised that, as the narrator reminisces about her childhood, there is never any mention of parents or siblings. From then on, I was gripped with the feeling that something wasn’t quite about right about her and her friends. I simply had to read on to find out what it was.

This is finally answered when the author allows Kathy’s character to pose these questions herself to her former guardians who answer them in a quite poignant fashion. I was genuinely moved by some moments at this point.

Highly recommended for those of you who enjoy something which will challenge your perceptions of what it means to be human and how we judge others.

 

William Golding: Lord of the Flies

Following on from my post regarding books I read as a child here, I have recently re-read this award-winning novel.

At the age of 12 when I first read it, I remember that I didn’t particularly enjoy it. However, I couldn’t quite remember why. Now, I do.

A group of school boys, some quite young, become stranded on a desert island. The book takes the reader on a journey into the psyche of Ralph, one of the older boys. He assumes the role of leader and goes about creating a crudely democratic society in which decisions are taken by voting. He even adopts a method of ensuring everyone has a turn to speak their minds by using a conch shell found on the beach.

Ralph is homesick and longs for his quintessentailly English life. In order to try and secure a rescue as soon as possible, he builds a fire on top of the mountain top and assigns boys to take it in turns to keep the fire alight to produce smoke.

The antagonist and, by the end of the book, Ralph’s sworn enemy, is Jack. He has no time for this peaceful existence and becomes obsessed with hunting the wild boar which inhabit the island. He and his followers gradually descend into a tribal existence, painting their faces with the blood of the creatures they hunt.

There are some gruesome moments when one of the boys is killed in an accident by the beach and a second loses his life towards his end. For that reason, I certainly wouldn’t recommend this book for younger children.

Having said that, it’s a thought-provoking story which explores political themes in a graphic fashion, along with giving us a well-deserved reminder that without our creature comforts of modern life, we may not be so different ourselves.

Alan Bennett: Smut

I never had Alan Bennett down as a writer of prose. An accomplished playwright, certainly. Something of a national treasure here in the UK, one could even argue.

My local library is fast becoming somewhere where I test out things that look interesting but might be from an author I’m not yet familiar with, so it’s a good way of making discoveries, both positive and negative, before committing to purchasing a book. In this case, it was not the author that was new but the genre he had chosen.

In both stories, the central characters are middle-aged women and both these women have sexual experiences which some would consider unconventional. Bennett writes not in the erotic style, but instead chooses to use specific language to infer what’s happening, rather than graphically depict it.

In an excerpt of an interview with Mark Lawson for the BBC (http://www.bbc.co.uk/arts/0/21870866), the writer reveals he could only have written this book until after his parents had died.

“You can’t write to the notion of what your parents of you,” he says. Which is good to bear in mind for me. I’ve thought from time to time about writing some erotica, but my mother would never forgive me. I suspect if I ever do, I shall use a pseudonym.

Certainly a literary lesson for me, this book. I shall look out for more of his work.